updated 09/07/1998 AT 01:00 AM EDT

originally published 09/07/1998 AT 01:00 AM EDT

Following in the steps of her younger brother, Warren Beatty, Shirley MacLaine is directing her first feature film, Bruno, a comedy about a large Italian-American woman named Angela and her precocious son Bruno. Angela's character is loosely based on the 450-pound actress who portrays her, newcomer Stacey Halprin. After several script readings, MacLaine surprised Halprin with a bouquet of flowers and a note that read, 'Get ready for the big time.' " Says producer David Kirkpatrick: "It took a real leap of faith on both Stacey's and Shirley's part to go this way." The leap is made a little less risky by an A-level supporting cast, including Kathy Bates, Gary Sinise and MacLaine herself.

That elderly actress who plays the mischievous Bea in the movie Dance with Me, is none other than Lady Olivier—Sir Laurence's widow, Joan Plowright. She draws the biggest laughs in the movie after watching a young woman shaking hips with a hot salsa dancer (played by Latin star Chayanne) and later grabbing him for a dance herself.

Cindy Crawford has taken heat for her decision to appear nude in the October Playboy, 10 years after she first bared all for the magazine. "My agent, among other people, said, 'You shouldn't do Playboy again because people are just starting to take you seriously,' " says Crawford, who also appeared in the magazine in 1994 and '95. "I thought, 'How sad. Do I have to sacrifice being perceived as a sensual woman in order to be taken seriously?' " As for how she looks 10 years after her first layout, Crawford says, "Obviously some things aren't quite as high or perky as they were, but my body is a result of how I treated it, as opposed to what I was born with. I am really pleased with the pictures."

Whether they win or lose, the nominees at the 50th annual Emmy Awards in Los Angeles on Sept. 13 won't walk away empty-handed. Everybody up for an award, including Calista Flockhart and David Duchovny, will receive gift baskets packed with such pricey goodies as Laurent-Perrier champagne, Oliver Peoples sunglasses, a day of beauty at Frederic Fekkai, a sterling silver bookmark from Harry Winston and a book, The Best in Television: 50 Years of Emmys. So, I guess, sometimes it really is an honor just to be nominated.

Rob Cohen, who directed HBO's The Rat Pack, considered dedicating the movie to Frank Sinatra, but felt it wouldn't be right, considering the film exposes both the good and bad sides of Sinatra, Sammy Davis Jr., Dean Martin and Peter Lawford. "I love these men, I respect these men," says Cohen. "But they had pluses and minuses, and that's what makes them interesting. A movie called St. Francis of Hoboken would not have been interesting."

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